India’s Supreme Court ordered authorities in the southern state of Kerala to set up a museum to help preserve a treasure worth at least $20 billion discovered at a Hindu temple.
The museum may either be attached to the temple or the gold coins, diamonds and other precious stones may be housed in a facility run by the state in its capital Thiruvananthapuram, judges R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik said in their interim order today in New Delhi. Curators should also be hired to appraise the value of the items, they said.
Bags of diamonds, an 18-foot (5.5 meter) gold necklace and 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of precious coins are among the 900 billion rupees ($20 billion) of items found so far, according to the website of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. The chambers were opened after a local lawyer asked the court to take stock of what was in the temple amid accusations that it was being mismanaged.
The court also told the state to lock up the remaining riches, left out of display from the planned museum, in a vault.
The temple is run by a trust controlled by descendants of the royal family of Travancore, who ruled an area that is now part of southern Kerala state until after the country gained independence from the British in 1947. The treasure is thought to have been given to the temple by the royal family, the Times of India reported.
Indians who follow the Hindu faith frequently make donations at temples, with offerings such as cash, gold and jewelry. The proceeds from such donations are used by the administration for running the temple and for charity work.
The Kerala government has deployed a 24-hour police force in and around the 16th-century temple following the discovery over the last three days. Other items in the opened vaults include gold ropes and antique jewelry studded with diamonds and emeralds, according to the temple’s website.
---With assistance from Pratish Narayanan in Mumbai and Andrew MacAskill in London. Editors: Sam Nagarajan, Abhay Singh